Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Just for Today

This daylily has the lovely name, Jerusalem. Here we see it in the early morning, though already it has been rained on lightly. By evening the life will have drained out of the flower, closing up for good and dropping off the scape (stem) in a day or two. The flower's message is: just for today and today is all there is. Doesn't Jesus tell us this: 

"Don't worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can worry about itself; One day's trouble is enough for one day." Matthew 6:34

So here is lovely prayer which focuses this theme and which we might pray when we awaken. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer offers a wealth of prayers for seemingly everything that concerns us and in language that we can readily understand!

O God:
Give me strength to live another day;
Let me not turn coward before its
difficulties or prove recreant to its duties;
Let me not lose faith in other people;
Keep me sweet and sound of heart,
in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;
Preserve me from minding little stings
or giving them;
Help me to keep my heart clean,
and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no
outward failure can dishearten me
or take away the joy of conscious integrity;
Open wide the eyes of my soul
that I may see good in all things;
Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;
Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;
and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls;
in the name of the strong Deliverer;
our only Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.

A note: the sixth line asks that my heart would be kept sweet. Sweet is the opposite of sour. In other words: Oh God keep me from becoming a sour person.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Intercessions ~ Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Summer Fireflies ~ Tsuneaki Hiramatsu, photographer

There are people who have more religion on them, than in them./ That we would be new Christ-persons,/ realizing deeply/ that the Kingdom of God is within./ We pray to the Lord.

There are lots of people/ who love to hate./ We pray for them/ and for our own conversion to love,/ mercy,/ compassion and justice./ We pray to the Lord.

Enormous fires are burning in California./ We pray for those whose homes are lost or threatened,/ for fire-fighters and helpers./ We pray boldly for the gift of rain./ We pray to the Lord.

Guide our nation in this election time./ Give us wise leaders,/ make us people of integrity,/ courtesy,/ harmony and justice./ Bless us with prosperity and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

World Youth Day draws to a close this weekend./ Guide the millions who attended/ to new depths of faith and loving service./ Bring everyone home safely./ We pray to the Lord. 

Give health of mind and body to our relatives and friends,/ hope to prisoners/ and consolation to the people of Germany and France where barbarous acts of terrorism have occurred recently./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who died just days ago in Munich, Nice and Japan./ For French priest, Father Jacques Hamel who was murdered at Mass,/ and for the wounded. / For the salvation of those who plot,/ kill and terrorize./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

About God, evil, and a priest savagely murdered

St. Ettiene du Rouvray 

Here is a photo of St Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France, where Father Jacques Hamel was murdered this past Tuesday. Etienne is French for Stephen, who was one of the original seven deacons in the Acts of the Apostles and the first of a long line of Christian men and women martyrs. Stephen was young. We can imagine the terrifying and sad shock the early Christians felt at his death.

We feel the particular sadness of Father Hamel's death because he was an elderly and venerable man, offering Mass, the action of a priest most expressive of God's love. Not to diminish Father Hamel's ghastly death, but we must remember that in the long history of the church, countless numbers of bishops, priests, nuns and monks have been murdered:

  • The sixteen Carmelite nuns of Compiegne whe were guillotined during the French Revolution.
  • That Archbishop Thomas Becket was stabbed to death in a procession on the way to Vespers in his own cathedral.
  • That St Stanislaus, and in our own time Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, were murdered like Father Hamel, at the altar.
  • That in the 1970's many nuns and priests were murdered in Central America for their steady presence and dedication to the poorest people.
  • Just a few months ago three Missionary Sisters of Charity were shot to death in the hostel where they took care of the abandoned elderly-sick. 
  • During the Second World War, Hitler had special concentration camps created for the clergy, and Josef Stalin rounded up all the bishops of Ukraine in one night, either murdering  or exiling them. 

Murdering priests and nuns, anywhere and any time, is indeed a great unleashing of evil, but so is the farmland of France being turned to dust in the First World War a great evil. The vaporizing of children at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a great evil. "Oops, collateral damage" doesn't mean it's not evil. Dragging African American men by the neck behind a truck was great evil. Turning away a ship filled with Jews fleeing Hitler was an evil. The countries of  plenty turning a blind eye to an African country starving or dying of AIDS, an evil. 

So where is God in all of this? I think the more important question is: Where are we? Where is humanity? How we burden God with our folly and failure.

A young Syrian woman at World Youth Day said that today many people feel disaffected, as if there is no longer any meaning to life - that perhaps God is not God, or that God has left us. The long story of the Jews is filled with this kind of inner struggle.

Some people think the only way that God can be God, is for God to be mighty, "Smite my enemy," and make all the pain and sorrow go away. I  wouldn't agree with that. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel relates in his book NIGHT, of a twelve or thirteen year old boy being hanged by the Nazis at Auschwitz during the Second World War. A crowd of old Jewish men is forced to watch. The scene is particularly sad because in Judaism, a twelve year old boy is a most wonderful person, because he is a sign of the future, assuming the adult responsibilities of faith, especially fidelity to prayer. And so the murder of the boy was intended to demoralize the witnesses. 

And as the boy hangs with the noose around his neck, a voice calls out in fear and despair, "Where is God?" An old man  points to the dead boy and answers, "There! There is God."  How to say this? Because we are made in the image of God and so when a human being is murdered, starved, blown-up, shot dead, enslaved, exploited - it is God who is maltreated and abused. Jesus focuses this even more so: "Whatsoever you do to the littlest of my brothers and sisters, you do to me." Matthew 25:40,45. If we really believed this - everything would be different, including our too often, shameful political scene. 

For me, I am more apt to feel a profound sadness than anger. Too quick to feel and express anger, I think sadness is a sometimes forgotten or dismissed feeling. The day after the Orlando shootings, the dead hadn't even been identified, let alone buried, and people were being pushed by TV and radio commentators to "Get on with the healing" and "Move on." How sick is that!

One could say if we were really to feel the world's sadness we'd be so crushed we'd never be able to get up off the floor. Priests should be better at this - even to weeping  at the altar. 

And so, in the St. Etienne du Rouvray scene,  God is there, dead on the floor, and the two nuns shaking with horror and fear, and in the first responders who so bravely stepped into the incomprehensible scene. Feel the sadness. 

There really is nothing to say; it's too awful. I think at Mass, when we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer, we should all be bent over, not even for worship, but for the stinging tears, the priest's voice breaking and trembling.  Religion talks too much (or conversely wrapping it up handily with "It's a mystery) while trying to explain things that are difficult or uncomfortable. There's nothing to say, only to weep.

We might do a little meditation right now. Go back up to the top of this post and imagine standing at the yellow police tape, looking over at the little stone church, calling to heart and mind the terrible thing that happened there on Tuesday and in other places everyday all around the world. Shhh.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What Sadness ~ Two Prayers

Father Jacques Hamel, age 86, was murdered today while offering morning Mass at the Church of St Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France.

Prayer for a Deceased Priest

you gave Jacques your servant and priest
the privilege of a holy ministry in this world.
May he rejoice for ever in the glory of your kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer in Time of War or Civil Disturbance

God our Father, 
maker and lover of peace,
to know you is to live
and to serve you is to reign.
All our faith is in your saving help;
protect us from men of violence
and keep us safe from weapons of hate.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Opie's Lesson

Some of us will remember Opie who was the young son of Sheriff Andy Taylor in the 1960's TV series, The Andy Griffith show. Here Opie is saying his bedtime prayers and Aunt Bea is listening in. Rose, the family housekeeper has left to get married and Opie's not happy about it. Here's the prayer:
God bless my Pa, my bird Dickey and my dog Gulliver and my lizard, also wherever it is he ran away to, and Barney Fife and my white mouse and Jerry, Tommy and Billy and my snake. Amen. I forgot somebody very important. God bless Rose even thought she ran off and got married.
This God bless formula served as the doorway to prayer for many of us when we were children. It comes up short in that it doesn't praise God, doesn't thank God and offers no repentance for the errors of the day, but otherwise it's a good prayer, growing out of relationships and  love - even for the creatures. 

We might now and again refresh this old prayer technique, but of course now we must pray from a grown-up place.

God bless my family and friends - especially the sick, the ones who are in trouble or who are troubled, the angry ones, the wrong-headed ones, the sad ones, the ones who are difficult or annoying.

God bless the world leaders - may they dream of making peace for our world.

God bless Pope Francis and all the patriarchs, bishops, priests and deacons and  the people in my parish.

God bless all the people who are away from home - the soldiers and sailors, the missionaries, diplomats and anyone whose work takes them far away.

God bless the people whose lives have become unbearable because of disease, storm, fire, earthquake, war, poverty or injustice.

God bless the children of the world: the littlest, the most vulnerable, the exploited, enslaved, ignored, abused. May all the children of the world be loved.

God bless the earth itself: the ground, the air, the water, the plants and the animals. Give us new hearts to restore our planet where it is spoiled by greed and carelessness.

God bless the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists and the Hindus. That we would live like God's children.

God bless the atheists and the agnostics - and instead of arguing, give us good deeds to accomplish together.

God bless the police, the fire-fighters, the rescuers and first responders, the blood donors, the doctors and nurses and all the people who watch, even at night, to keep us safe.

God bless the people I do not love rightly or do not love at all, anyone I've wronged, anyone I need to forgive or ask to be forgiven.

And God bless me - that I would have more religion in me than on me. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Surviving Difficult Days

Reliquary holding the Crib of Bethlehem ~ Santa Maria Maggiore ~ Rome

These are difficult days. One television commentator said, "It seems as if the nation has veered off into shadow".  After the murder of five police officers in Baton Rouge, a mother broke down before the cameras and said, "Our children have lost the right to be safe on the street". And the host of a radio call-in show used the term "ammo-sexual" referring to the intense intimacy the nation shares with guns. 

Saint Paul tells us in the Letter to the Philippians that there is a Christian response to the world where it is warped and diseased:

Delight yourselves in the Lord, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for being reasonable, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don't worry over anything whatever; whenever you pray tell God every detail of your needs in thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which surpasses human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. My brothers and sisters I need only add this. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and admirable." Philippians 4:6-8 

Recently while in Rome during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, my twelve year old friend Katie, made a visit to the chapel at Santa Maria Maggiore which houses the relic-crib of Bethlehem. We can see the boards of the crib through the glass "egg" in the photo here. In anticipation of her pilgrimage I asked her to write a poem-prayer as she sat in the chapel. Her poem is a true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and admirable stream of consciousness, where in an awake and attentive silence she allowed her mind to roam. 

A stable
  filled with hay
  with oxen and sheep
  with cows
  a donkey
  and mice by your feet.

There was a mother who gave birth to a king,
  a king in a stable, not a grand palace.
The animals knew of his power and love,
  and gave their manger,
  a king's crib made of wood.

The stable had sheep
The stable had hay
The stable had love
The love of  a king who would die for his people
The love of parents who would guide and protect
The love of a God who would save creation
  even if it meant he would die on a cross.

The manger is here
  still made of wood
  placed in a church
  in a case of glass and gold.

People come, who kneel
  and say their prayers to the king.
The stable and the manger
  not fit for an earthly king
  were all you needed on the day of your birth.

People come to admire your humility
  as shepherds and wise men did on that day
People still flock to what once was your crib
  to see the place where you laid your head.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Intercessions ~ Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sts. Joachim & Anna ~ Parents of Mary

In today's Gospel/ Jesus attends to the quality of our prayer./ We ask to be blessed as people of prayer,/ in the elements of praise,/ contrition,/ thanks and supplication./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray again for Pope Francis and the thousands who will travel to Poland soon for World Youth Day./ For safety,/ joy and growth in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anna/ the parents of the Virgin Mary./ We pray for parents and grandparents,/ and the health of families living in despair,/ and even incomprehensible suffering./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of the wonder-worker/ healer-physicain and martyr,/ Saint Panteleon./ We pray for doctors,/ nurses,/ researchers and technicians./ For those who ask for gifts of health,/ strength or recovery./ We pray to the Lord.

In this election season/ we ask to be a more kind people,/ more polite,/ tolerant,/ intelligent and peaceable./ We intercede for those who seek public office to be humble,/ genuine servants,/ skilled in uniting people./ We pray to the Lord.

Our suffering-nation needs a very deep healing/ afflicted with so much gun violence and death./ We ask heaven for that remedy,/ and entrust the sick,/ the wounded and disturbed to God's care,/ mindful of soldiers returning home./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the police officers and others recently murdered in gun-madness./ We pray too for their mournful families,/ friends and colleagues./ For the salvation of all./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"I believe in God" - Who plays and delights

Can you see it? These are tern eggs camouflaged on beach pebbles. We can say God protects, yes, but God also plays. God delights! Remember the astronomer who began a presentation to his colleagues by asking, "What imagination thought of the trillion, trillion galaxies?" Maybe that's who God is: God is all-imagination.

And the Genesis story recounts that we have God breath in us - sharing God's creative imagination, indeed, that we are an expression of this Imagination. It's very wonderful: that we are this close to God!

But we forget this very quickly, expecting the others will be just like me in beliefs and values, even faith. We're not exact copies of some original master piece, but God's grace (which is God's shared energies) evolves and grows us each uniquely. It would be a peaceful world, you know, if we really believed and lived that.

It's a disaster when that personal evolution is thwarted or denied. I'm thinking of friends who went to Romania where orphanages are filled with infants and toddlers born to drug addicted women. And these children can't let go of the kind people who've traveled  just to lift and hold them, so the baby can experience and be grown by human touch. 

I was talking with a newly ordained Orthodox priest yesterday whose four year old child happily attends a Montessori school. The Montessori method is not to pack in but to draw out the divinely imagined and God-sparked person within each of us. But truth be told, things can go very wrong. What's happened along the life-way to the white-supremacists who recently came with knives expecting to meet protesters at their rally?

Miss Gaunt played by Georgine Anderson

There are Christians who see it as their mission to detect sin, like Miss Gaunt, played by Georgine Anderson, in the 1978 Geraldine McEwan TV series, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. They miss sharing the play and delighted imagination of God, who takes a moment in creating each human person, and who Christ loves in his Resurrection breathing. 

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" John 20:22

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Faith in a seed, a bulb, a root, a rhizome, a tuber, a corm...

Thoreau wrote a book titled: Faith in a Seed relating that he once dug up some field-soil, no more than could fit in a coffee cup, which when tended with light and water produced over 500 seedlings of many kinds. 

Indeed seeds, bulbs, roots, rhizomes, tubers, corms - all of these are nature's ways of plant propagation taking place insistently and in secret, hidden in the soil beyond our sight. How packed with life our planet is!

And this is Madonna Lily (Lilium Candidum) on its first day of bloom, very fragrant and often seen in paintings of the Annunciation. Of the Virgin Mary the bloom announces: "Blessed are the clean of heart." 

I planted three Madonna Lily bulbs in July of 2013. A rosette of leaves  quickly appeared on schedule in anticipation of next years blooms. But come the spring of 2014, long before any flower bud could appear, the deer chewed all three to the ground. Then late that summer new leaves appeared, restoring hope that next year I'd see flowers. 

Come the spring of 2015 some fungus settled in and the leaves rotted away - another year gone. Then in the summer of that year still more leaves appeared but on only one of the bulbs which survived the winter into 2016. Taking good care of this remaining plant: a little extra bulb food, a fabric cover on a frosty night, a strip of scare- away tape to distract the deer and rabbits - this single stem of blooms at last!

To be sure, not all garden stories end this happily - sometimes the losses are total, expensive and dis-heartening. But this bright white lily seems to say, hang on! And how important is that these days of political discouragement, gun and bomb slaughter that spares no one - even the littlest. 

Visiting the July garden then becomes a pilgrimage where I bend over Lilium Candidum each day, for as long as she's around, and inhale her encouragement and suggestion of hope. And hope is not wishing, but trusting that God may act, can act, nay, will act!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Invoking Reparata ~ Patroness of Nice

A simple prayer to the Virgin Mary ~ Mother of God was posted here in November of last year following a terrible and deadly attack in Paris, France. Since then there have been seemingly countess other attacks not only in France but around the world.  In fact, those attacks have become so frequent that they can no longer be adequately mentioned here before another takes place. 

I am now fully aware that in the time between the Thursday posting of the weekend intercessions and Sunday morning, yet another terrible shooting, massacre or bombing will have taken place. Death upon death.

But a number of folks have written lately expressing a deep hopelessness in all of it. In answering the inner prompt to do a little research, I discovered that the Virgin-Martyr, Saint Reparata is the patroness of Nice, France. Reparata died in the persecution of  Decius. The cathedral at Nice retains her relics.

The Virgin Martyrs are a large group of saints, usually young Christian girls, who refused to marry pagan men or bear children to be raised up in dedication to the emperor who thought he was a god. Girls - brave beyond our imagining. 

And there were little children and teens killed in Nice the other night. And mothers and fathers tumbled over themselves while trying to shield their little ones from the zig-zagging truck as it plowed through the crowd.  I just read of a husband who was killed as he pushed his pregnant wife to safety and of a four year old boy still missing, having been separated from his mother in the chaos.

I can't think what to do, except to look at the beautiful and bright face of young Reparata, gazing out at us and our frenzied, frustrated, frightened world. Reparata would have understood the world, violent and fearsome. And perhaps out of that long-look to make a prayer attempt. You too.

We make your acquaintance
at the Nice cathedral
where your relics are enshrined
O holy Reparata.
And as we meet you in your icon
and greet you
with your decorated halo,
your eyes meet ours
who come to you in 
sorrow and tears,
pain and fear.

Do what you can for us, won't you?
that the lost child would find his mother,
that the injured would heal,
that those in emotional agony would be comforted,
that the rescuers and helpers would be strong,

that the evil-planners would have a change of heart,
that those shaking with fear would be restored to calm,
that the dead would wake up
to the face of Jesus-Risen
and your own face too, 
O Reparata,
and all your heavenly companions.

"A time is coming..."

A time is coming
when people will go mad,
and when they see someone who is not mad,
they will mock him saying:
"You are mad, you are not like us."

 Saint Anthony the Great

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Intercessions ~ Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We pray for Pope Francis and the many thousands of young people who will pilgrim to Poland for World Youth Day./ For safety,/ insight,/ and growth in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

With gratitude/ we pray for the protection of law enforcement and first responders across our country./ And as the nation mourns so many recent deaths by violence/ and wrestles with painful domestic issues,/ we pray for peaceful resolutions./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the nation/ where our best wisdom and creativity are being swallowed up by hate-baiting,/ narrow-mindedness and fear./ We pray to the Lord.

It is God's good earth,/ but ours too./ We pray for a new consciousness,/ calling us to preserve,/ love and care for this planet./ We pray too for the forgiveness of global greed,/ exploitation and selfish indifference./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for ourselves this week/ asking strength in what might overwhelm us,/ light in what confounds or saddens us,/ trust in what un-nerves us./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who live with special needs and disabilities./ For the sick,/ the elderly,/ the weak and the wounded,/ for refugees and the poorest./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally, we pray for the dead,/ remembering family and friends deceased,/ but also those unknown to us  who have died by murder,/ accident,/ disaster,/ war or neglect./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 14 ~ Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

This Thursday is the Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. The short biography which follows comes from the beautiful, little homemade book, Vignettes on the Life of Kateri Tekakwitha ~ Lily of the Mohawks ~ 1991 by Sarah Hassenplug. I have seen a litany composed in her honor,  but the language used in the prayer is so overly spiritual and elevated, the lovely saint is taken off the ground, and we are no longer able to identify her as one of us. So I have composed my own.

In 1656, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in a village called Ossernenon that was located on the South bank of the Mohawk River, about 40 miles west of Albany, New York. Her father was one of the Nine Chiefs of the Mohawk Tribe and he was a non-Christian. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin Maiden who was raised among the French near Three Rivers, Canada.
When she was four years old Tekakwitha lost her parents and baby brother in the smallpox epidemic of 1660. There is no record of the names of her parents, little brother, or her aunts and uncles. Neither was her adopted sister's named recorded. 
Tekakwitha survived the smallpox epidemic but the disease left her weak fro the rest of her life. Her eyesight was impaired and her face was scarred with ugly pock marks. 

Kateri, in your Easter Baptism
Kateri, Child of God
Kateri, whose gaze is God's Kingdom
Kateri, repentant heart
Kateri, pleased to sing hymns

Kateri, praying, Jesus, I love you!

Kateri, who wore a path to church
Kateri, in your gift of prayer
Kateri, in innocence likened to angels
Kateri, of cheerful face

Kateri, gentle and inviting

Kateri, peaceful in trials
Kateri, growing in goodness
Kateri, in your forest solitude
Kateri, love for Jesus crucified

Kateri, patient in humility

Kateri, content in poverty
Kateri, helping us from heaven
Kateri, clean-hearted
Kateri, joyful in the Eucharist

Kateri, detached for love of Jesus

Kateri, surrendered to God's purposes
Kateri, without complaint
Kateri, in the abuse of your people
Kateri, a lily flowering on your grave

Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"It is my niche!"

The very fine 1980's French film, Therese, presented a series of vignettes of the life of St. Therese of Lisieux (aka The Little Flower). One scene takes place in the attic where Therese is putting away a costume she wore in a convent play having depicted Saint Joan of Arc. A young nun, clearly unstable and hissing anger, comes out from behind a rack of costumes, verbally accosting Therese, "This place is crazy!" Therese shrugs her shoulders and says simply, "It is my niche."

Now we know that Therese wasn't referring just to the convent buildings. In her letters, she gives indications that she is fully aware of the convent's craziness. In photographs of the Lisieux community, you don't need to be a psychiatrist to realize Therese was far and away the most stable and healthy of the sisters.

But for the spiritually minded person, niche means that inner place, that mental-heart place, that interior habitat where one knows there is a fit, where I am most comfortable, not for purposes of escape but to be the person God intended for me to become. And despite the weaknesses of the others and the sometimes narrow and even life-denying Catholicism of her day, Therese believed the convent supported that niche-life.

And we're all invited to discover our niche, that inner place I might call home, where I know, when all is said and done, that I am not alone. For the Christian, niche is that inner place where I am secure in the fundamental choice I have made, and make again and again, to live in God as God is revealed to me in Christ.

The little ferns in the photo here have found their niche at the base of an old and giant white pine tree. They have found the place to grow, to put down roots, safe from trampling feet and the cars on the nearby dirt road, safe from the lawnmower and the weed-whacker. Can you feel their comfort and security? And do I have my own personal experience of that? I might at once think of some outer-life support:
  • when I travel alone in the car
  • as I pray the Mass or the rosary
  • in the lighting of the candle before the icon
  • as I open the Gospel page
  • in my home visiting
  • my volunteer work
  • in the garden where I work alone
  • walking or jogging along the wooded path

But ultimately the niche is an inner reality where I experience God as Illumination and Truth, and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well, Medieval plague-survivor  Saint Juliana said.

I came across this little proverb from a Hindu text which I've adjusted so slightly to make it more understandable for the Christian.

His (Her) mind is dead
to the touch of the external.
It is alive
to the bliss of God
because his heart knows God
his happiness is for ever.

A final thought: The heart's knowledge of God is not synonymous with having one's doctrine and ethic in good order. Being a staunch defender of the faith is no guarantee that my heart knows God. Indeed, the Vatican bishop who oversees communications has said recently that the Catholic blogger world is a cesspool of hate - all in the name of defending the faith. You would think that Catholics are against everyone and everything. 

That my heart would know God? Biblically, heart means: my intellect, awareness, mind, inner person, inner feelings, deepest thoughts, inner self, my inner yearnings. 

But how? The psalms make thirteen references to being and remaining awake spiritually. And Jesus makes some sixteen references to watching. Indeed, the first persons to meet Jesus are the shepherds who are watching at night. Today in a sleepy, distracted, drugged, zombie-world, we might say simply, pay attention.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Intercessions ~ Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Early in July we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance this month./ We ask for them the blessings of good health,/ safety, /healing and encouragement./ We pray to the Lord. 

July is the Month of the Precious Blood of Jesus./ In his Blood Christ stands in a great solidarity with all of humankind./ And so we pray for those who bleed,/ even to death,/ by violence and hate./ And for those who cause others to bleed and suffer./ We pray to the Lord. 

In our Mass-prayer we hold the concerns of family and friends./ interceding for them in sickness,/ trouble,/ struggles and weakness./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis who invites the world to the peaceful resolution of conflicts,/ and for the strengthening and blessing of every voice calling others to the beauty of justice,/ mercy and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

In humility we pray for ourselves and those who stand around us at Mass today,/ asking to be graced with everything we need for our own salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is the Feast of Saint Benedict,/ the Father of Western Monasticism./ We pray for the many thousands of monks and nuns who follow his simple rule of life,/ and that we would be faithful to the deepening of our own lives lived in Christ./ We pray to the Lord. 

For those who have died we ask the Lord's radiant compassion,/ the healing of inner wounds/ and freedom from suffering,/ pain and frailty./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July ~ A Prayer For Our Country

Here is a prayer that the Russian priest-martyr, Father Alexander Men, wrote for his city. I've adapted it a bit and offer it on this Independence Day ~ A Prayer for Our Country. For spiritually minded persons, "independence" will signify inner realities: freedom from hatred and prejudice, freedom from addiction and life-denying anxieties, freedom from surfacey living: this-world living, freedom from greed, power-lust and violence. Freedom FOR service.

Lord Jesus Christ!
In this evening hour, in our country,
Where Your blessing rests,
amidst all sufferings, sins and troubles,
You, Who suffered
and assumed all the ills of humankind,
because You loved us,
You, Who have come here,
remain with us.

Lord, You bore the Cross,
Teach us to carry sufferings and burdens
for the sake of our loved ones.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You see our wounds and our weaknesses.
Pour strength into us, make us resilient and vigorous,
worthy witnesses of Your Divine Gospel.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Grant us in those days which You assign us, 
to carry Your Cross as a banner.
Lord Jesus Christ, guide us.

We thank you for everything miraculous,
which You give us in nature, in the temple,
in the Sacrament, in Your Sacred Scripture,
in the writings of people inspired by You,
in our close ones, in our beloved ones,
in everything which occupies us,
concerns us, fascinates us.

For everything we thank You, Lord.
Grant us to be truthful bearers of Your Name. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Agony In The Garden ~ What Did Jesus See?

This painting, titled The Agony in the Garden, was painted by William Blake, poet and painter at the end of the 18th century. It invites a long, careful look. 

"And he had sight of an angel from heaven, encouraging him. And now he was in an agony and prayed still more earnestly; his sweat fell to the ground like thick drops of blood." Luke 22: 43,44

At the center of the painting is a majestic angel appearing to support Jesus through a divided and brilliantly colored cloud.The angel's gaze is locked on the face of Jesus who, in an overwhelming exhaustion, is thrown backwards in torment. Notice that the angel is not patting Jesus on the back but catching him by the waist. There is nothing sentimental here. 

Everything is expressed here through vertical lines - the angel's reaching arms, the grove of trees, even the lines of light reflected off the trees left and right that descend into the palms of Jesus which will be opened with nails the next day. 

The trees at night foreshadow horror and sorrow, but light is breaking in with the angel's appearance. Hidden amidst the olive trees are sleepy apostles, almost ghost-like, symbols of humanity asleep in our dark history and shadowy stupidity. 

This causes us to ask: "What did Jesus see that he began to sweat blood in the garden? Or sweat so heavy and dense it was like blood? A torment so great a bright angel appeared." Let's keep the answer current. 

  • He saw the atrocities and massacres we're living through these days. He saw the gun-fetish. 
  • He saw the people making millions off the sale of guns intended to take out large numbers of people quickly. 
  • He saw the industry which sexualizes and enslaves girls and young women. 
  • He saw the aftermath of the BREXIT vote and hateful brutes threatening perceived "foreigners" in England, throwing excrement on their doors and yelling for them to get out. 
  • He saw in our own time the new growth and realignment of the KKK, with small groups joining larger groups and the new sale of their evil costume, $145 for the standard white sheet outfit, $165 for the satin version. 

There's a YouTube out these days where the viewer is taken into a Carmelite monastery of nuns. We see the sisters going through their prayer-day and interviewed about their lives in an enclosed community. The prioress, after relaying that the nuns don't read newspapers, magazines or see television, is asked: "Do the sisters know about the priest sex abuse scandal in the Church?" The nun is quiet for a moment, and then, seemingly stunned and having a hard time expressing it, finally says, "Our hearts bleed for it." 

During this sex abuse scandal I've asked for years: Where's the tears? Where's the repentant fasting? Is anyone bleeding about this? Which, by the way, is more awful than we know. Jesus saw that on the Mount of  Olives. The very name of the place, Gethsemane, means olive press? That to extract the oil, the olives need to be crushed? Jesus was crushed that night - that's why thick drops of blood-like sweat (like oil) oozed out of him - he saw it all. But thanks be to God, there is more...

Bright angel of Gethsemane,
were your jewel-toned wings
flecked with Christ's Blood?
And were you the same one
who appeared
Easter morning,
announcing good news and
joy for all the world?